Critical Hospitality Symposium, Critical Hospitality Symposium II: Hospitality IS Society

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Gaining and Sustaining ‘Hospitable’ Employment for Disability Youth
Richard Robinson, Colin Clark

Last modified: 2018-07-02


The Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which is overhauling the sector and transforming the way persons experiencing disability access services, is modelled on research demonstrating the broader economic benefits of greater inclusive workforce participation (Deloitte Access Economics, 2011). Yet Australia ranks 21st out of 29 OECD nations in disability employment rates (Darcy et al., 2016). The hospitality industry suffers persistent skills shortages although it has a long tradition of employing from society’s margins (Baum, 2015). Research has shown hospitality firms are more likely than other industries to hire people experiencing disability (Houtenville & Kalargyrou, 2014). Therefore, hospitality has the need, the tradition and capacity to implement and support lasting change in the employment of disability youth. In late 2016, a disability services provider (DSP) and a registered charity partnered in a mobile coffee cart social enterprise to create open employment pathways for a group of disability youth previously employed in the ‘sheltered workshop’ model. A 360-degree ethnography, combining interview and observational methods (Sandiford, 2015) was designed to investigate the holistic experiences of the youth and to gain insights into the levers and barriers regarding open employment. The agency/structure dualism framed the study, as it is recognised that agency is in itself not sufficient when its expression is constrained by an individual’s social deficits and the legacies of their entrenched disadvantage (Graham et al., 2015). In all five ‘baristas’ experiencing disability (across 10 interviews), 11 co-workers/managers from the DSP and charity and 21 customers comprised the sample. Previous research has identified industry’s reticence to employ people with disability as a key barrier, despite ability and willingness to work (Darcy et al, 2016). This study however, identified a complex range of structural factors inhibiting the agency of disability youth to self-determine towards open employment.


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